Victorian house has a Middle Eastern soul
A mismatch between a home’s architecture and its owners’ taste and life story doesn’t have to result in a clash of cultures. See how two distinct styles come together inside this creative San Francisco home.
Adorn a clean background with bold elements for a fresh, friendly look./ Photo © Thomas J. Story/Sunset
The least-expected design combinations are sometimes the most rewarding. For Mariam and Michael Mader of San Francisco, learning to juxtapose styles started with a traditional Victorian, which they hoped to turn into a comfortable home fully reflecting their taste and life story.
A previous renovation in the 1980s had resulted in faux-marble Grecian columns in the living room and several sets of mismatched moldings. "We wanted to strip away the intensely ornate stuff," Michael Mader says. "But we didn't want to turn a Victorian into a modern showcase."
There was one other important consideration: the couple's cherished collection of global souvenirs, amassed on trips to far-flung flea markets and bazaars. "We love to travel — it's one of our passions," Mariam Mader says. "Plus, I'm half-Iranian, and I wanted a home that reminded me of places where I grew up: Egypt, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon."
Middle Eastern meets Victorian? According to interior designer Charles de Lisle, it's less of a stretch than you think. "Victorians have a Moorish character about them," he says, noting the intricate detailing common to both styles.
See how Middle Eastern design meets Victorian in this slide show.
The key to making it work
Highlight the patterns and textures of both styles against a clean-lined, contemporary backdrop.
Mariam Mader and de Lisle started with one bold hit in an otherwise minimal space: the eye-catching fabric on the living-room armchairs, which complements the neo-Victorian details of the fireplace mantel. An octagonal Moroccan coffee table gives the room a strong visual anchor.
For a more serene effect, de Lisle mixed a variety of subtle surfaces in the kitchen: anigré wood cabinetry with ridged glass fronts, porcelain floor tiles, and variegated marble counters and backsplash. An antiqued mirror behind the sink "keeps everything from looking too new," de Lisle says.
Upstairs, the master bedroom's subdued palette of blues and grays is drawn from a shimmery swatch of the fabric that Mariam Mader installed on her headboard. The handmade blue crackle tile in the master bath evokes "the moody feel of a hammam (Middle Eastern bathhouse)," she says.
Creative uses for the couple's cache of treasures are displayed throughout. In the dining room, a pair of Moroccan lanterns unearthed at the Paris flea market is now a dramatic light fixture suspended from a teak bar. For art, de Lisle took an image from the couple's photo album — a memorable lunch in Morocco — and had a vibrant detail of a pink chair enlarged 26,000 times, then mounted on PVC plastic. The result is abstract, compelling and one of a kind. Plus, at around $300, it was relatively affordable.
Warmly contemporary and full of surprising contrasts, the traditional Victorian is now a home with a new soul. As Mariam Mader says, "Living with personal pieces and memories has given me some of my biggest joys."
Design: Charles de Lisle, de Lisle, Philpotts & Staub Interiors, San Francisco, 415-565-6767.
Architect: Heidi Richardson, Richardson Architects, Mill Valley, Calif., 415-380-0474.
Resources: Brandon Beige paint on living-room walls from Benjamin Moore, half-formula, 800-344-0400. Armchair upholstered in Amijao Sulphur from Raoul Textiles, 310-657-4931. Antique sofa upholstered in mohair velvet in Eden from Rogers & Goffigon, 203-532-8068. Capiz shell floor lamp from Out of Asia, 310-204-5885. Don leather armchair and ottoman from Limn, 415-543-5466. Antique wood hourglass stool from JRM International, 415-864-8118. Harry sofa from B&B Italia, 800-872-1697. Pillow covered in Gatsby fabric in Middleton black from Donghia, 914-662-2377. Cab armchairs (around dining table) in matte ivory from Limn.
By Irene Edwards, Sunset